More Aetna

7 October 2008
The Etna, erupting.

The Etna, erupting.

Not to be left out of things, and inspired by you and by Jolanda’s striking photos, I too have put online an Aetna; the transcription of the Latin poem so long attributed to Vergil: in the original Latin, plus an English translation, plus the Loeb editor’s Introduction. It’s not much about Mt. Etna, and rather more about explaining volcanoes; and it’s interesting because it’s not altogether wrong, and emphasizes seeking knowledge by looking at things, instead of starting from a priori ideas. Anyhoo, Aetna is here.


Aetna

7 October 2008
The Etna, erupting.

The Etna, erupting.

Mount Etna is the subject of a Latin poem that was probably written in the first half of the first century. The anonymous author does not belong to the greatest ancient poets, but his enthusiasm is sincere and he convincingly advises his readers to observe closely if they want to be good scientists. He tells several ancient myths about the mountain, but also argues that they are no sound sources of knowledge (“let none be deceived by the fictions poets tell”).

The full Latin text, with apparatus criticus and English translation, is now online at LacusCurtius: go here.


Etna

28 September 2008
The Etna

The Etna

Mount Etna is probably the most active volcano in Europe; it certainly is the volcano with the longest recorded history. Greek and Latin authors refer to no less than twelve eruptions.

When you visit the dark and inhospitable landscape, it is easy to imagine that in Antiquity, it was believed that the fire-breathing Enceladus was buried alive on Sicily; when he moved, earthquakes were the result. The god Hephaestion (or Vulcan) had his forge inside Mount Etna, and the Cyclopes were believed to have lived in caves. Because of its height, Mount Etna was also believed to have been a place where people had gathered during the Great Flood, and survived.

I’ve been there twice, but never had an opportunity to reach the summit. However, my friend Jolanda gave me some photos of flowing lava, which you can admire here (and more of her photos here).